Bill Robertson

A God Fighting a Monster with Seven Heads

A kneeling god fearlessly confronts a fierce leonine creature with raised tail and seven serpentine necks. One head has already succumbed to a blow. The god slaying the monster on this Sumerian shell inlay is represented as divine by the homed crown with vegetation. Flame-like emanations rise from the monster’s back on the 2.6-inch-long incised shell dating to about 2600 B.C. The hole between the figures is probably a late addition.

The representation of a god fighting a monster with seven heads appears in Mesopotamia in only two other instances, on seals. The monsters on these seals are also shown partially defeated, with some of their heads cut off or wounded. Biblical descriptions of multi-headed creatures such as the one on this incised shell occur in Revelation (12:3)—“a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns”—and in Isaiah (27:1), where the prophet says that the Lord will punish Leviathan (sometimes identified as a seven-headed creature) with his mighty sword.